Former ANC provincial chairman John Block being escorted down to the holding area of the Northern Cape High Court. Picture: Danie van der Lith

WHILE the ANC in the Northern Cape has expressed its shock at the 15-year sentence handed down to the party’s former provincial chairperson John Block, other political parties, as well as the Hawks, have welcomed the court’s decision.

ANC provincial secretary Zamani Saul said yesterday that the party was “shocked by the outcome”.

“We, however, accept the outcome and we are of the view that he (Block) has every right to appeal the case and his legal team have given an indication that they will appeal the case.

"The ANC is fully behind the appeal and we would also like to reaffirm our support for Comrade John,” Saul said.

The national head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Lieutenant-General Berning Ntlemeza, meanwhile, welcomed the judgment handed down by the Northern Cape High Court in Kimberley to Block, 49, the former finance, tourism and economic affairs MEC and his business associate, Christo Scholtz, 60, the chief executive of Trifecta Group Holdings.

The two were found guilty of fraud and corruption in 2015.

The charges are related to their involvement in inflating prices in the lease agreement between them and the Northern Cape Social Development Department.

They will both serve 15 years' imprisonment and, additionally, a forfeiture order of R2 million was made against Block, while a R53m confiscation of assets order was made against Scholtz and Trifecta.

Ntlemeza yesterday ap-
plauded the Hawks members involved in the case, who, he said, “had worked diligently during the lengthy investigation and ensured that corrupt officials were held liable for their actions and faced the full might of the law”.

“This shows that we are committed to working around the clock to fighting the harm caused by corruption in our country. We hope that this will serve as a deterrent to all corrupt civil servants and that it is also indicative of the excellent relationship between the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority.”

The DA in the Northern Cape also welcomed the sentence. “Block’s application to appeal his sentence will just delay the inevitable – he has been found guilty and must serve the time that his crime warrants,” DA provincial leader Andrew Louw said.

“We hope that the conviction and sentencing will send a strong message to those politicians who break the law and rob South Africans of opportunities by stealing public money.”

Louw pointed out that the Northern Cape had “become a milking cow for the corrupt few who seek to enrich themselves at the cost of service delivery”.

“The conviction and sentencing of Block must mark the start of tackling the criminality that is found throughout the ANC, ever increasing under Jacob Zuma’s leadership,” he added.

“We trust that this sentencing will send out the message that the law will catch up with politicians and officials who break the law for their own benefit. Officials and politicians in all spheres of government must stay away from corruption and be honest public servants."

According to Louw, processes were also currently unfolding at the Northern Cape Department of Health, which, he stated, might expose further corruption.

“The DA will closely moni-
tor these processes to ensure that those found guilty of wrongdoing will be held accountable and also get their day in court.”

Cope added its voice as it welcomed the sentences handed down. “It has taken long, but finally the verdict that was issued meets the type of crime committed,” Cope MPL Pakes Dikgetsi said.